Carolina (Million) on My Mind: FantasyDraft’s First Live NFL Final

Throughout the 2017 NFL season, FantasyDraft’s players took their shot qualifying for one of 12 seats at the Carolina Million Live Final where they would compete for a share of $1,000,000 . The qualifiers started NFL Week 1 and went all the way up to NFL Week 13, with the Live final held in Charlotte during NFL Week 14.

The Finalists and their guests flew in to Charlotte from around the U.S. and Canada. They ranged from casual player to those whose full-time business is daily fantasy. From smalltime, a relatively-new FantasyDraft player from San Francisco who only spent $40 to qualify in week 1, to janxnon, who heads up FanVice, a site dedicated to helping DFS players.

Checking into their rooms at the Ritz-Carlton in uptown Charlotte, each Finalist was greeted in with a custom Carolina Million tee, a hat, ticket to the Panthers-Vikings game, and a big surprise: 2 tickets to the NBA Hornets-Lakers game.

After meeting in the Ritz-Carolton bar Saturday night, the Finalists walked the short distance from the hotel to the Spectrum Center, where they’d enjoy a gourmet pregame meal, then watch the game from a mid-court suite.

Finalist awesomo enjoyed the experience, “we had a suite next to Michael Jordan!”

It was an opportunity for the players to talk shop, get acquainted, and even watch a bit of the game. Even though the hometown Hornets couldn’t pull it off at the end, the Finalists had a great time. Undoubtedly the highlight of their evening was getting to take home a Star Wars edition Frank Kaminsky bobblehead.

Sunday started with the Finalists making last-minute adjustments to their lineups, then heading over to Bank of America Stadium to catch the 1pm Vikings-Panthers game. It was uncharacteristically cold for mid-December, but the Finalists didn’t mind, since they were watching the game from the comfort of a suite.

“It was a hell of a game, and even better that we didn’t have to be out in the cold,” janxnon said afterward. Coming from Florida, he was demonstrably happy to be inside for the game.

The hometown Panthers pulled out the win, and the assembled Finalists boarded a bus for their next – and final – stop of the weekend. The mood was light and friendly, despite being halfway through a competition for a million dollars.

Walking into the All-American Pub, dozens of TVs, music, an open bar, and a small buffet awaited the finalists. Also awaiting the Finalists was a giant blank $200,000 check hanging on the wall — an immediate reminder that this was more than just an ordinary Sunday.

As the afternoon games ended, the tension ratcheted up, reaching a peak as as Seahawks-Jaguars and Rams-Eagles were the only games remaining in the slate. The Jaguars game ended first, with smalltime hanging onto a small lead over bigmel911. As the Eagles game neared the finish, it was clear that no one was going to catch him. A few minutes later it was official, with smalltime claiming the top prize of $200,000.

“It’s kind of surreal right now. It hasn’t really settled in,” smalltime exclaimed, holding his oversized check while his brothers and best friend celebrated around him.

Win or lose, the Finalists agreed that it was an unforgettable experience. And, of course, with the 12th place finisher taking home $15,000 there were no real lose for the Carolina Million Live Final, only a slightly smaller win.

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